KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Senate Dems Continue Push For Medicaid Money, Jobless Benefits

The Hill reports that Senate Democrats are pushing to keep a package of jobless benefits and aid to states for their Medicaid programs moving. "More than 1.2 million Americans will exhaust their unemployment benefits by the end of June if Congress fails to work out a deal on an extension of unemployment benefits, according to the National Employment Law Project, a group studying the issue." Additionally, Congress hasn't approved an extension of a 65 percent subsidy that helps people newly laid-off afford to keep their former employers' health benefits, called the COBRA subsidy. "Democrats have argued the unemployment benefits should be considered emergency spending that does not have to be offset with other spending cuts or tax increases. Republicans have balked at the $33 billion cost, which would be added to record deficits" (Needham, 6/27).

CongressDaily: "Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, who has been getting hammered by union ads for her vote against the failed "extender" bill ... reiterated her call for the Senate to take up a stand-alone extension of unemployment benefits," in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "Snowe said she had no problem with the [unemployment insurance] portion being un-offset, despite adding about $33 billion to the deficit. Other members of her party have objected to that several times, however, when Democrats have sought to bring a stand-alone, unpaid-for UI bill to the floor" (6/25).

Meanwhile, in a separate story, The Hill reports that "[s]ome Democrats have weighed the possibility of separating the Medicaid provision - which would extend emergency federal funding through the first half of 2011 - in hopes of passing it more quickly and preventing severe budget cuts by cash-strapped states, which will begin as early as this week. But Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said Friday that that's not the Democrats' plan." The higher matching rate for states' Medicaid program expires at the end of the year. Democrats have proposed a six-month extension, however, and many states have already built those dollars into their budgets. The provision originally cost $24 billion but was pared to $15 billion by drawing down the aid sooner. But, the extenders bill was all but killed Thursday after it failed to attract any Republican votes in the Senate (Lillis, 6/27).

Crain's Detroit Business: "Michigan may be heading for more state budget and economic pain because of the failure of the U.S. Senate last Thursday to approve an extension of unemployment insurance benefits and federal Medicaid money, Gov. Jennifer Granholm said Friday ... Programs that could be affected include Medicaid prescription drug coverage, payments to Medicaid providers, mental health services, revenue sharing and university funding" (Lane, 6/27).

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